Sunday 27 September 2015

Missy Hits

In which I'm finally starting to see the Master in Missy...
(Spoilers of the slightest variety for Doctor Who 9.2: The Witch's Familiar)

I've been going back and forth on this for a week. Again, I missed the back half of Series 8 so this was my first exposure to Missy as a character instead of something people on the internet were going bananas about because of... bleh.

You see, I have two conflicting emotions where it comes to the Master as a holistic entity. The first is that I love Roger Delgado's version: he's amazing, he saves more than one of the scripts he appears in, his chemistry with Pertwee is absolutely fantastic since it absolutely forced Pertwee to raise his game.

So maybe the problem I have with Missy (and with the Simm incarnation) is that I prefer the Delgado version?

Well, that brings us to emotion #2: I hate that Anthony Ainley spent so much of his time in the role just being a lame Delgado impersonation. Ainley wasn't the most versatile actor in the series (but by no means the least, either) but on the one or two occasions when he was given something unique to do with the role (by my count Planet of Fire and Survival) he absolutely shone.

My outright stated preference for the Master is for him to be recast whenever the Doctor is. As much as Ainley doesn't work as a Delgado impersonation, he works worse with Colin Baker than he did with Peter Davison and I honestly can't imagine Delgado working opposite Tom Baker. The “dark mirror” aspect of the character means they're probably best being redesigned every time the Doctor is because the dark version of Pertwee is not the dark version of Tom Baker.

What this is coming around to is me saying I'm starting to feel my two views on Michelle Gomez's Missy, that I like Missy but don't see her as the Master, are actually two sides of the same coin.

I like Missy. I enjoy Missy. Gomez has fantastic chemistry with Jenna Coleman and she's fantastic fun. I don't see Delgado or Ainley or Beevers in there but that's actually something I can appreciate now I'm more used to her. I think perhaps my reluctance here where I've never been reluctant to accept a markedly different version of the Doctor is because the Master's presence isn't constant. Since they only turn up every now and again there's perhaps an unreasonable demand for the character to be more consistent than we demand the Doctor be between incarnations.

Just a thought.

And I love the joke about the chair. 

Friday 25 September 2015

Dear culture, some things that are not the same...

Editing and censorship.
Apolitical and conservative.
Problematic and irredeemable.
The beliefs of a writer and the actions of their characters.
Canon and what a general audience can be assumed to remember.
Iconic and just plain old.
What was publishable in the 1950s and now.
Bisexuality and nymphomania.
What was publishable in the 1980s and now.
Sexualisation and objectification.
Death threats and comedy.
Influences behaviour” and “causes behaviour”.
Subjective experience and worthless information.
Fundamentalist Catholicism does not represent the beliefs of every religious person in the world.
Neither does fundamentalist Islam.
Jeremy Corbyn and actual communist dictators.
US Presidential primaries and the US Presidential election.

We all clear now? Because I would really like to stop having to have these conversations. 

Thursday 24 September 2015

What links Batman and WW1 propaganda?

Giant pennies...
the key to victory. 

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Empire Detachments (Reikland army background)

As I've been tinkering away building my little Empire army I've also been tinkering with their background. I do like to have a story behind my armies and this one grew in the telling. What I like about the Empire is that there is such a sense of geography to it: the grand counties and chartered cities have such a sense of character that just deciding where the army is from helps you build its character.

Since the big game I'm building this for will be The Siege Of Altdorf and since Tom and Matt's armies are from Nuln and Nordland respectively, I decided on Reikland just to have some locals in the game. Also, with the advent of a white spray that actually covers a model the colour scheme shouldn't be too hard.

So, here are the detachments that make up my little force and what units they mighty eventually command:

Thelius Umbra and the Altdorf All-College Drinking Society
Battle Wizard Lord, Battle Wizards

The Drinking Society have been characters in my background for a couple of years now but this is the first chance I've had to create them for the tabletop. Thelius Umbra is Patriarch of the Grey College and the Drinking Society are his most trusted off-the-books agents drawn from all eight colleges:

Exiled Bretonnian noblewoman and Bright Wizard Lieutenant the Lady Desfleuves, Sabifa de Martrand; swordswoman and Light College exorcist Erza Drescler; bookish Beasts Wizard Fitz Bernhardt; the mysterious Grey Child Josephine Klein; taciturn Celestial Wizard Dana Mahler; muscular Gold Wizard Guido “The Big Man” Flieshman; gun-toting Jade Wizard Viktor Eisner; and part-time accountant, Amethyst Wizard Andreas Eckermann.

The Society has one further member, the High Elf Loremaster Korando but he's not terribly relevant to matters right now.

The Bogenhafen Longshots
Captain of the Empire, Crossbowmen, Handgunners, Pistoliers, Steam Tank

The main detachment of the army hails from the obscenely wealthy chartered city of Bogenhafen. I love their ridiculously ostentatious cream and purple uniforms. The Longshots, as you can see, are a rifle regiment for no better reason than I love Sharpe. I'll probably have two officers from the Longshots so I can field a General Of The Empire when I don't feel like using Umbra.

The Steam Tank in the Empire Bestiary is actually showing Bogenhafen colours so that's why I've listed the thing here and not with the other war machines.

The Captain is, in fact, a Major and the official commander of the army.

The Reikland Silver Blades
Captain of the Empire with Battle Standard, Warrior Priest, Haberdiers, Spearmen, Swordsmen, Free Company Militia

Basically, all the close combat state troops come from this regiment. As much as the Bogenhafen colour scheme attracts me I do want something rather simpler for the larger state units. With white spray in hand a cream cloth should only take a couple of layers. I've also lumped in the Warrior Priest as the regimental chaplain.

The Free Company are irregulars but they're paid through the Silver Blades.

Markus Wulfhart and his Hunters
Markus Wulfhart, Huntsmen

I have a Markus Wulfhart and ten Huntsmen from when I was planning to do Stirland Outlaws for a Mordheim campaign that never happened. I'm not usually one for special characters but I do rather like Wulfhart and his little band of archers, both in terms of what they do and their background.

The Carroburg Greatswords

Pragmatism, this. The Bogenhafen Captain is the actual army commander but keeping him with one of his own units would be a magnificent waste of time. I don't really see a regiment of riflemen and archers maintaining Greatswords so he'd have to be assigned a bodyguard from another regiment.

And the red cloth and black lacquer armour of the Carroburg regiment has always been my favourite.

The Black Guard of Morr
Grand Master, Witch Hunter, Knightly Orders, Demigryph Knights

Death's own Knightly Order, bane of the undead. I first encountered them in the Tale Of Four Gamers series that ran from White Dwarf #300 and I rather like the purple and black colour scheme. I also have a great idea for giving them albino demgryphs.

Admittedly, the Witch Hunter can't be mounted but I include him in this detachment because it makes sense. He'll be lurking off somewhere else when I field him, possibly with the Huntsmen or in a ranked unit of his own.

The Painted Ladies of Nuln
Master Engineer, Outriders, war machines

Yes, there's an engineering school in Altdorf but I don't like the Altdorf colour scheme (quartered red and blue, ugh). Plus, Tom and I have been talking about linking up his Nuln army and the Society for a while so having a detachment “from” his army will provide that link rather nicely.

They're called The Painted Ladies, incidentally, as a rather crude joke about the soot stains on their faces and, hopefully, because I'll be able to convert a female Master Engineer using one of those Statuesque Heroic Female Heads. 

Tuesday 22 September 2015


I want to say something clever about this whole situation but the simple fact is that our Prime Minister might have had sex with a dead pig for reasons involving Brideshead Revisited. No, I don't understand the link, I've never seen Brideshead Revisited and I don't think I want to now.

Some things go beyond satire. 

Monday 21 September 2015

Davros, Missy and Queerbaiting

In which Davros is useful for the first time since 1985, Michelle Gomez has me double-checking my pronouns, and Clara's sexuality gives me pause...

(Spoilers ahead for Doctor Who's ninth series première The Magician's Apprentice.)

I still haven't finished watching the back half of series eight so this is the first time I've seen Michelle Gomez as Missy. I'm... conflicted. You see, I like Missy just fine, she works well as a villainous presence, but what has me raising an eyebrow is how hard it is to see her as the Master.

This isn't a gender thing. I've wanted to see a woman play the Doctor for years and I'd be willing to bet this is as close as we'll be getting any time soon. There are moments when I see the Master there: when she disintegrates two men to prove she hasn't “turned good” and, of course, the glorious moment towards the end of the episode where she realises where they've ended up and how bad things are. There really is nothing more “Master” than the whole plan collapsing around them. And that little scheme with the planes is as convoluted and pointless as anything Delgado or Ainley's incarnations ever pulled.

So what's the problem? Well, for a start, I want to admit that it is probably my problem and less to do with the writing, it might even be something utterly necessary to selling this character as the Master to a general audience who have never seen Delgado or Ainley.

You see, I just never liked the Simm version of the Master and Missy is very much written to match his zaniness. The Master to me swings between detached cool and homicidal rage, I can't quite buy comedy accents from the character.

Davros, meanwhile, is the best he's been since Revelation Of The Daleks in 1985. What this story has over The Stolen Earth/Journey's End (and Remembrance, for that matter) is that it remembers Davros is a scientist. He has a cool non-Dalek henchman who is clearly one of his genetic experiments and we get another in the long list of chatty confrontations between the Doctor and Davros. “Did you miss our conversations?” Davros asks and, in all honesty, I did. I also like that throughout this episode he's kept separate from the Daleks which is how he's always worked best. These two, polar opposites in morality but united by their profession as scientists act as great foils for one another, arguably better than the Doctor and the Master.

So, effusive praise for a good episode mired only by some personal issues with the series' ongoing use of the Master?

Well, no, there's one other issue. It's an issue that's been hanging over Clara in particular and the Moffat era in general for a while now and one that this episode probably imagines it's helping to solve.

You see, Clara has a line here pretty much confirming her bisexuality. Now, this isn't out of the blue and that's been a problem in some quarters. The first duplicate Clara, Oswin Oswald, was bi (or possibly just forgetful) and whether that was a trait inherited from the original has been an open question since Clara's introduction proper. Here she mentions how good a kisser Jane Austen was and, yes, we have a canon bisexual companion. Yay?


You see, something that has dogged Moffat's Doctor Who is that when he took over from Russell T. Davies there were suddenly a lot fewer queer characters in the series. I'm not personally inclined to interpret malice on Moffat's part since he and Davies have different creative obsessions and, yes, one of Davies' is sexuality. Once the problem was pointed out to Moffat we got Jenny and Vastra and now canon bisexual Clara.

Still, it is only a mention and part of me raises an eyebrow and wonders if I'm being queerbaited here. Now, I'm the last person to look at a bisexual character and say they're imperfect for not sleeping with anything in sight, truth be told that trope bugged me long before I had reason to find it personally offensive. Still, I wonder how much latitude there would be for Clara to be shown in a relationship with a woman. Would the BBC ever allow the series to show her making sloppy kisses with Jane Austen (get those fan fictions beta'd by Friday AO3!)? She kissed Danny Pink plenty of times but the idea of her with a woman has to remain an idea.

Perhaps I'm just being ornery but this tiny mention smacks of fanservice more than character development. When Clara's character is actively informed by her bisexuality then I'll be cheering it on. Not necessarily a relationship or anything sexual, just some evidence that this is more than a bit of sly titillation. 

Wednesday 16 September 2015

The men of the Empire march to war

Every year my little gaming group gets together for a big group game. Back at uni it was the last week before the summer holidays, these days it's the end of November before our flats are too full of Christmas tree for anyone to set up a gaming table.

The game we'll be playing, part of our homebrewed post-End Times continuity, is the re-conquest of Altdorf. Tom and I will be taking the Empire role trying to retake the Imperial capital while Iain and Matt will be holding the walls as a Warriors of Chaos/Beastmen alliance. 3,000 points per player.

Now, I don't have an Empire army so the plan was for Matt to lend me his, which is still the plan but I wanted to contribute something.

I have a couple of Empire kits knocking around because of a Mordheim campaign that never happened: ten Archers, a Warrior Priest and Markus Wolfheart (I was going to play Stirwood Outlaws). I also have five Pistoliers bought for a conversion that didn't work out. I've also built several Battle Wizards over the last couple of months for Tom to use in his army (long story, we'll get to it another day) which gives me the option, so far, of Heavens, Death, Metal, Fire, Light and Shadow Magic. The Shadow Wizard will be a Wizard Lord and my general, at least for the mega-game.

I also picked up a box of Handgunners because... well, because I love Sharpe, basically. Whatever I choose to do with this force they'll be the main characters and they'll be their regiment's Chosen Men. The sergeant will have a repeater handgun (for which I will have to come up with an Empire version of Mister Nock of London).

At the same time, I ordered the Captain with a hammer and pistol (who will swear a lot) and a Helstorm Rocket Battery. They may not actually be that effective but... well, Sharpe's Enemy is one of my favourite episodes and I rather want to quote the “dirty, deaf and damned” line when it inevitably misfires.

So far I've quite enjoyed putting the models together, they're very user-friendly. This project was only meant to be “a few models” to add some personal flavour to a couple of games but I might expand a little beyond this. I'll probably get some Demigryph Knights because I like Demigryph Knights by which I mean I hate Demigryph Knights and I heartily look forward to subjecting Tom and Matt to the pain they subject me to oh so regularly.